The Way Sleep Meetings Should Be Done

Editor’s intro: At the meeting of the World Sleep Society, Dr. Steve Carstensen found clinicians and educators alike sharing their knowledge and sparking new interests.

Steve Carstensen, DDS
Diplomate, American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine

In late September, the World Sleep Society held their meeting in beautiful Vancouver, Canada. This five-day event assembled sleep and health volunteers, medical auxiliaries, and licensed medical professionals of every description who are concerned with sleep and sleep-related medical disorders. Over 300 hours of individual talks were presented by hundreds of speakers. There were 12 keynotes and more than 1,100 posters to view. I wanted to be in three places at once.

Dentistry was well represented, and, more importantly, well regarded by the whole range of attendees. It seemed Dr. Fernanda Almeida was everywhere, hosting panels, introducing the top researchers and clinicians from around the world, or providing insights from her deep body of work and research. (And hosting a fabulous party!) Dr. Peter Cistulli opened one of his presentations, “Oral appliance therapy for obstructive sleep apnea: Ready for prime time” by asking for hands in the room for physicians, dentists, and ‘other.’ The results I’ve never seen at any other sleep meeting: equal number of hands went up for each group. It’s as if physicians, dentists, respiratory therapists, myofunctional therapists and researchers had something to learn from each other and an interest in working together! Notice the title did not end with a question – it was a declaration by someone who knows about what is real, today.

Dr. Christian Guilleminault was cited by many presenters. Ballroom A was filled as Dr. Oliviero Bruni offered a heartfelt memorial, expressing the gratitude of an entire discipline of medicine to our inspiring and innovative leader for many years. RIP, CG.

An overwhelming theme of many talks was the need to move from ‘one therapy for all’ thinking toward precision medicine, identifying phenotypes of patients and offering the therapy most likely to address their individual concern. The sophistication of diagnostic devices and software has made it possible to discern far more details about our patients’ sleep than was there at the beginning. AHI is no longer the dominating metric for diagnosis. Dr. Danny Eckert has led the way in breaking down the measurements to label the pathology in different ways. This will lead to more successful therapy earlier after diagnosis than ever before. If the major problem is low arousal threshold, let’s treat that with medication; if it’s an anatomy issue, oral appliance or surgery might be first choice.
Precision medicine combined with technology advances will allow medical providers of all types to be part of identification and treatment decisions for patients. Informed, well-trained dentists will be taking increasingly important roles in management of sleep related breathing disorders.

Panel after panel, symposium followed by another talk – there were physicians, dentists, PhDs, clinicians and professors, all working together to share their knowledge with their peers. I can’t imagine an attendee walking out of the Vancouver Convention Center without a spark in their eyes and excitement in their voice to get back to practice and help people get better. This is how a medical meeting should be run.

This is my last issue of Dental Sleep Practice as Editor-in-Chief. For the past 5 ½ years, I hope you’ve seen in these pages inspiration, education, and the passing along of clinical wisdom, all so you can be a better doctor and improve the health of your community.


Dr. Todd Morgan pointed to work by Dr. Peter Cistulli, one of the speakers at the World Sleep Society meeting in his article “The Use of Vertical in Our Practice.” Read more here.


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